Summary: How do you react to the cross of Jesus? It may say a lot about your spiritual condition and your relationship to Christ. Learn how many of the witnesses reacted.
If you really want to get a reaction on something from somebody-mention the cross of Jesus Christ. From the recent Mel Gibson movie The Passion of the Christ, right on back through the generations and millennia-mentioning the cross instantly puts people into several camps and creates a response from apathy to anger. That was also true for those who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in person.
Today as we look at the account I want to focus on the reactions and interactions between the players, and hopefully get a sense of how they felt and how we feel when we think about the cross. I know for myself, whenever this section of the gospels comes along my stomach tightens and I feel anxious. Anger wells up in me as I think about what they did to my Lord and for some reason I start wanting Pilate to have some backbone and stand up to the crowds and let Jesus go.
But then I have to balance those feelings with the knowledge that once it was time, Jesus very very carefully said and did just exactly what was needed to be crucified. Allowing it is one thing, but to purposefully orchestrate things so that it happened-all the while being completely innocent-boggles the mind.
Verses 1 - 5
Notice how the Jews tailored their argument so that a gentile ruler might take notice: "forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar." It was untrue, but the seriousness of the accusation trumped the evidence of the truth. Remember Jesus said "give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God what it God’s" (Luke 20:25)
Pilate really didn’t care if someone declared themselves to be king of the Jews. As long as Roman rule was secure. Here is the first time Pilate declares Jesus to be innocent. He’ll do it twice more before condemning him to the cross.
When their arguments of 1: he is misleading, 2: he tells us not to pay taxes, and 3: he is a king-don’t work, they resort to an argument they think will: that he is fomenting rebellion and rioting, something the Romans hated.
Verses 6 - 12
As is often the case-when someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for something, they pawn it off on another authority. Pilate figured this was a Jewish matter so cart Jesus off to Herod, whom Pilate disliked anyway.
Herod really wanted to see Jesus, but not to hear the gospel or to worship Him but to see Him perform a trick. Jesus didn’t grant Herod anything, not even one word. Herod is the only one to whom Jesus said nothing. John the Baptist had already said things to Herod, whose heart was hard, so Jesus had nothing to add.
So in front of Herod the chief priests and scribes "vehemently accused" Jesus. It probably means they were shouting angrily at Him. In verse :35 they will "scoff" at Him. For his part, Herod goes from longing to see Jesus to "contempt" and "mocking." "Contempt" means to look down upon or "to treat shamefully."
There is this odd little thing that Luke adds-that Pilate and Herod became friends that day. Pilate and Herod were uneasy rivals: Part Jewish Herod ruled over Galilee Perea, while Roman Pilate ruled over Judea and Samaria in place of Herod’s half brother Archelaus, who was removed by Rome. When Pilate acknowledged Herod’s authority and when neither could figure out what to do with Jesus, the rivalry between them faded.
Its interesting how dismissing the gospel can bring rivals together.
Verses 13 - 25
While Pilate didn’t know what to make of Jesus, he did know one thing: Jesus was innocent. We know that the voices of the rulers of the people were joined by the crowd. This was their last chance and when they couldn’t win on principal they won by shear determination and threatening to do the one thing that would get Pilate into personal trouble: start a riot. Pilate had been in trouble for this before from Rome and if it happened again he might be removed from his position as governor.
It says "their voices prevailed" which uses a Greek idiom that means to be forced to obey something whether right or wrong. Notice that Pilate released a man convicted of insurrection and murder. Who else does that remind you of? Satan, who Jesus said was a "murderer from the beginning" and who sinned against God by rebelling against His authority. So man has allied himself with Satan from the garden and now chooses a man like Satan over a man like God.
Verses 26 - 31
Cyrene was in Northern Africa.
Not everyone wanted Jesus to be killed. But even in this hour of His suffering Jesus is thinking about others-in this case the fact that the present situation for these women and the people of Jerusalem was nothing in comparison for what would come just forty years from then-the destruction of Jerusalem.